The start of early voting on Monday was not an easy day for those of us who enthusiastically supported Mike Villarreal to become the next mayor of San Antonio. His narrow loss was most disappointing in that it came as a direct result of poor participation of those with the most to gain from his election – younger voters trying to build their life in this city.
I have been reluctant to speak about the runoff since the launch of Tech bloc last month and my association with it. We have great ambitions for our newfound network of politically engaged tech workers in this city, so let me be clear: what I share today is my own personal opinion. Others inside the community have reached a different conclusion than mine, and I respect that.
The truth is that while the tech community seemed fairly unified in its support of Mike, the choices in the runoff have left the group divided. While encouraged by many to just stay neutral, I came to feel that personally staying on the sidelines is a cop-out and counter to the broad level of participation we are trying to foster. The only bad choice is no choice.
I am supporting former Sen. Leticia Van de Putte in the runoff with optimism that if she wins she can rise to the level of leadership this city needs right now. The simple truth is that Mayor Ivy Taylor in her 300-day interim term has missed opportunities to ensure our city stays on its ambitious path to build a new economy and a more progressive city. Many I speak with feel our city has lost its momentum since Mayor Julián Castro left for Washington, and truthfully, I agree. Tech bloc as a movement in many ways is a direct result of this feeling.
Rideshare is a frequent topic in our community but just one obvious symbol. As a public policy issue, it was mishandled and misunderstood from the beginning. Similarly, while Google Fiber may still end up in San Antonio, we have heard none of the firm commitment and ambition to ensure its arrival that we got from Mayor Castro. Furthermore, Mayor Taylor’s stance on LBGTQ issues sends an unwelcoming signal to newcomers and residents alike. Her inability to separate her personal or religious views from her larger responsibility to include everyone in San Antonio is a negative in my view. Openness and tolerance are a hallmark of life in our most vibrant cities.
Van de Putte has her own question marks including unknown connections to the police and fire unions whose contracts hold the key to our fiscal flexibility. In the end, I worry less about these issues than the leadership void we have seen with Mayor Taylor. Van de Putte cannot give away our future to the unions without giving away her own political future. In addition, her proven leadership skills, determination and fresh perspective should get us moving back on the right track more quickly than attempting to restart efforts under Mayor Taylor.
While I support Van de Putte, I am eager to help the next mayor, regardless of the winner, to push San Antonio forward. I feel both candidates are increasingly focused on the importance of making San Antonio competitive in the modern tech-driven economy. We have a lot of work to do to get the city back on track and leaning into the future, and I am happy to see so many people stepping up to engage.
More than anything, I urge you to vote. Get involved and be part of building our city. You can’t complain if you don’t participate.
ONE MORE NOTE
The burden of leadership also falls on our City Council, which would greatly benefit from the addition of Mari Aguirre-Rodriguez who is also in the runoff for District 7. Mari would be a huge addition to our city leadership and deserves unqualified support in her race. She also will need every vote to prevail.
*Featured/top image: Lew Moorman gives the first address. Photo by Scott Ball.